Phish’s two-night stand at The Gorge has garnished lavish praise for its other-worldly improv- and rightfully so. Representing the peak of Phish’s summer, each evening carried its own vibe and its own colossal jams. In discussion of the two nights in Washington, there has been an obvious focus on the most mind-numbing improv, but less attention has been paid to some of the pieces that fit in between. Here are three musical moments that took place over the two nights that have crystallized in my memory, but haven’t been widely noted.
“Slave to the Traffic Light” 8.7 E
There is something so magical about a “Slave” encore, regardless of its context. But paint the Columbia River Gorge in the background, and place it at the end of a deeply enchanting show, and you’ve got the recipe for a peak Phish experience. Following a sublime final sequence of “Bathtub Gin > Harry Hood,” this encore felt congruent to the wide-open and delicate musical vibe of the show. Seldom are “Hood” and “Slave” ever combined, but on this night, there was no other way to end the night. Pure. Soulful. Majesty.
“Tweezer” 8.8 I
While this “Tweezer” wasn’t a straight throwdown like several others this summer, its intricate playing coupled with its sunset placement made this an indelible memory of the weekend. Favoring a less-dancy rhythmic path, Trey and Fish were locked in a picking & drum pattern that carried the jam, while Mike and Page filled in the spaces therein. Trey and Fish continued to layer their phrases, creating a quasi-staccato feel to the jam. Trey finally breaks the cohesion with some slower licks that push Fish into a groove, and at this point, the band began meticulously building the piece with unique phrasings that carried a more tradional “Tweezer” sound. With dusk upon The Gorge, nothing could have been better.
“Makisupa Policeman” 8.8 II
Following one of the most outrageous jams of the summer in “Rock and Roll,” the band segued into the
“cow-reggae” favorite, “Makisupa.” An ideal bass-led passage of relaxation, things got Phishy towards the end of the song. During the section of improv, Trey and Mike looked at each other and had an idea. Slowly switching instruments, Mike took the lead on the ‘Doc. Anyone who has seen Mike play guitar knows he’s got mad skills, and when he took over, his creative lines have the music a more authentic island vibe. Trey looked tiny behind the bass as he held down the bottom end with his trademark goofy smile. Following one of the best jams of the year, it was time for a little fun- and this time, the music didn’t pay the price.
“The Wedge” 8.8 II
Slipped into the second set rather randomly, this version of “The Wedge” seemed more lively and energetic than other versions. While the band didn’t necessarily do anything crazy, they just really ripped a juicy rendition of the summertime favorite- smack dab in the middle of the second set. And it worked great. The Gorge can even effect composed pieces, and here is some evidence.
Jam of the Day:
“Bathtub Gin” 11.9.95 II
Here’s a preview of today’s download- some vintage ’95 improv.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
11.9.1995 Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA < Torrent
11.9.1995 Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA < Megaupload
This was the first show after Halloween and a week-long break amidst Fall ’95′s 54-show marathon. Beginning a legendary three-night run at The Fabulous Fox in Atlanta, this show kicked off the second half of fall which would culminate in December in one of the most revered months in Phish history.
I: Tweezer Reprise, The Divided Sky, Prince Caspian, Punch You in the Eye, Simple, Reba, Tela, Sample in a Jar
II: Theme From the Bottom, Julius, Lizards, Bathtub Gin > TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY, Life on Mars?, Hello My Baby, The Squirming Coil
E: Loving Cup
Source: AKG C1000 (hypercardiod) > DAT @ 16/48 (Taper – J.T. Lucchesi)
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